Thinking about conspiracy theories

The class I run on Outschool is actually “Critical and Ethical Thinking”, so it’s not always about purely ethics. This weeks topic is more of a critical thinking exercise, as we discuss conspiracy theories. I wrote the lesson today, ready for the first few classes this evening. We talk about Flat Earthers, moon landing denial, and anti-vaxxers. That gave me enough material for plenty of questions to ask the kids, exploring things like:

  • How likely is it that all of the scientists who study the Earth accidentally got the shape wrong?
  • Does it make any sense at all that scientists and governments would deliberately lie to everyone about the shape of the Earth?
  • What do you think would make some people believe NASA didn’t really land on the moon?
  • If someone believes the Earth is flat, does that cause any harm?
  • Should we try to show conspiracy theorists they are wrong, or is it a waste of time?

Apart from writing the lesson and running 3 classes, I spent time working on comics, and walking up to the shops with Scully to get some lunch and buy some things.

And now I’m going to get an earlier night after staying up last night for that meeting that never happened.

New content today:

One thought on “Thinking about conspiracy theories”

  1. It’s not the scientific aspect in conspiracy theories – it’s the psychological. The chances of 99.999% of scientists being wrong and 1 person being right – it has happened before in the history of science, and you really do not want to dismiss someone just because they say something different than the main concensus – that way religions start. The issue is why people lose trust in the government and scientific institutes – if you see a vaccine company hiding stuff, not telling everything they are doing, and then getting rich from it – people will become skeptic about it. Government discussions that are confidential and not disclosed to the public – and then unpopular decsicions – cause distress and distrust.
    The worst part of everything is – there were some pretty big scandals in the past that the government or the drug companies have covered up – so you can’t say for sure “this is not possible”. The opiod pandemic in the USA is only the latest example of this. You’d think more people would be afraid of medicines after finding out that the drug companies paid doctors to perscribe addictive drugs to people who didn’t need them.
    I know that the vaccines are safe (if not that effective, depending on the company and variant), the earth is round, humans landed on the moon (too much bother to fake it with 60s tech), and G5 technology is not dangerous (even if some people think it’s OK to burn antenna poles because of fear) – but I understand when people lose faith in what the government is telling them, and I understand when science seems unstable and dangerous. I understand how some people get so worked up about it that they turn to violence – but I think the lies should be stopped before that point.
    BTW – what’s the harm in those theories? try assassinations, mass shooting events and vandalism stemming from the belief that there is a pedophile network in the whitehouse, or that vaccines are poison, or that incel group. People can kill for a just cause, even if it turns out it’s not just at all.

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